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Final Holiday Weekend Sales Weak As Retailers Near Year-End Financial Close

American shoppers were conservative in their purchases during the last weekend before the holiday, and as companies face their year-end financial close, sales were lackluster during this final shopping weekend.

Falling Sales
Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at

American shoppers were conservative in their purchases during the last weekend before the holiday, and as companies face their year-end financial close, sales were lackluster during this final shopping weekend.

Falling Sales
Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at market research firm NPD Inc., predicted that this most recent holiday weekend enjoyed the same number of shoppers as the same period in 2011, but that consumers doled out less for purchases this time around, according to The Associated Press.

"There was this absence of joy for the holiday," Cohen stated. "There was no Christmas spirit. There have been just too many distractions."

The news outlet reports that retailers made an effort to entice American consumers by offering promotions between 2 and 3 percent higher than the last weekend before Christmas in 2011, as measured by BMO Capital Markets sales rack index. According to the measure, these incentives were 5 percent lower earlier in the holiday shopping season.

ShopperTrak, which compiles information on the number of people walking into stores and data it has gathered from 40,000 retailers in the United States, has indicated that the purchasing slowdown that traditionally comes after Black Friday was even more severe in 2012, with sales for week ending December 15 dropping 4.3 percent.

Since retailers are coping with lukewarm demand from consumers and widespread uncertainty about the economy, they might benefit from focusing on these year-end financial activities.

'Unpredictable'
Marjorie Decker, who will become a state representative in the Massachusetts legislature in January, told Bloomberg that "It's an unpredictable economy," and that as a result of these conditions "We're more mindful of what they do and don't need."

While a litany of factors could potentially be blamed for the unpredictability of the economy, the fiscal cliff and lackluster consumer confidence could be contributing to this volatile behavior, according to the news source.

"When you look at the fiscal-cliff media coverage as well as the decline in consumer confidence and the slowdown in e- commerce, all those basically happened at the same time," Michael McNamara, a vice president at SpendingPulse, told the media outlet in a telephone interview.

He added that Hurricane Sandy served to undermine online holiday shopping.

Recently, various measures of consumer sentiment have indicated rising pessimism. Data provided by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan reveals that their consumer confidence index plunged to 72.9 in December from 82.7 in November. The monthly figure is the lowest since July.

The fiscal cliff has repeatedly been blamed for the wariness of many consumers, as the budget disputes involved will result in more than $600 billion worth of tax increases and spending cuts being automatically triggered on January 1.

Seasonal Data 
The speculation surrounding the aforementioned economic headwinds have coincided with recently-released data indicating lackluster holiday sales.

Data provided by MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse indicates that online sales plunged 8.4 percent during the 2012 holiday shopping season, a sharp contrast to the 16 percent surge this activity enjoyed in 2011 from 2010, according to Bloomberg. Data from 60,000 web retailers reveals that sales rose $48 billion from October 28 through December 22.

According to information released by Virginia-based technology research company Comscore, ecommerce sales surged 16 percent to total $38.7 billion between November 1 and December 2. Corporate data provided by this firm indicates that this sales figure rose 15 percent during the same period in 2011.

In this tough shopping climate, what is your retailer doing to effectively navigate the economy? 

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